a personal guide to good eating & drinking

Thursday, December 26th, 2013


Abbaye Sainte-Madeleine du Barroux


Abbaye du Barroux Pere Odon

84330 Le Barroux
04 90 62 25 23

Even if you aren’t remotely into religion Sainte-Madeleine du Barroux is an inspiring place to visit – as much for the simple beauty of its abbey church as for the exquisite harmony of the sacred music floating in the air. This Benedictine monastery close to Mont Ventoux is also a worthwhile stopping point for gastronomes. Much of the produce sold in its shop is generated by the 50 monks who live and farm here; the logo MO-NAS-TIC indicates which items are theirs.

With 900 olive trees and a mill developed in 2000, the abbey has become famous for its olive oil. ‘We make three kinds,’ explains visitor-friendly Père Odon. ‘Fresh, grassy La Reïalo made from Aglandau olives that are pressed quickly; La Joïo with riper flavours coming from a proportion of black Tanche olives from Nyons; and La Suavo, a fruité noir style made from Aglandau olives fermented for eight to ten days.’ The swishest, priciest oil of all is Sélection, a blend made from the very best fruit.

Although I can’t yet testify to the quality of the abbey’s wines – organic since 2010 and apparently vastly improved in quality since 2011 – I’ll keep an eye on them. With the fruit of vines up to 70 years old available from their 7 hectares, it seems the community decided to push their range upmarket, realising they could achieve higher standards than those aimed at in the past.

In the meantime visitors shouldn’t miss the monastery’s fantastically crusty bread – white, wholegrain, nut or olive. ‘Bread is actually our oldest product,’ my gentle guide points out. ‘The first monks here in the 1980s were taught how to make it by Poilâne.’ Oh là là – the god of French sourdough. No wonder it tastes so good.


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